49ers QB Purdy keeps focus on the Lions instead of past struggles or successes
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy goes into his second straight NFC championship game not worried about his early game struggles last week or basking in the glow of a comeback win or reliving the injury that derailed last year's playoff run.
“It doesn’t matter if you played good or bad,” Purdy said Wednesday about last week's start. “I don’t take really any of that with you the next week, it’s a new game, it’s a new scheme, it’s a new environment. Everything about it is new. So it’s almost like you’ve got to clean the slate, learn from the mistakes, build off of the good things that you’ve done."
Purdy has done that well all season, coming back from the elbow injury suffered in a 31-7 NFC title game loss to the Eagles a year ago to return to this stage.
Purdy got hit hard on San Francisco’s opening drive and tore a ligament in his throwing elbow. That forced into action fourth-stringer Josh Johnson, who joined the team late in the season, and he tried to keep the game competitive.
But the Niners fell behind by two touchdowns before Johnson left with a concussion early in the third quarter, forcing Purdy to finish the game even though he couldn’t throw the ball more than a few yards.
Now they are back with a healthy Purdy and the confidence that this time will be different, that they won’t become the fifth team ever to lose in the conference title game in three straight seasons.
“Obviously, I’m excited that we’re here," Purdy said. “Last year is last year. That was its own game. It hasn’t been anything that has bled into this year or this game. This is the 49ers against the Lions now. So it’s a new year, a new approach.”
Purdy worked his way back to being healthy and had a stellar regular season by becoming the first Niners quarterback in more than 20 years to throw for more than 4,000 yards (4,280) or at least 30 TDs (31).
He led the NFL with a 113 passer rating and his 9.6 yards per attempt were the most in the NFL for a qualifying QB since Kurt Warner had 9.9 in 2000.
“He’s an efficient quarterback, who gets his playmakers the ball in space,” Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said. “Contrary to what the narrative is, he’s able to make some really good throws.”
Purdy has become one of the most polarizing players in the NFL with his gaudy statistics on one of the league's most talented offenses leading backers to proclaim him an MVP candidate and the physical limitations that contributed to his low draft status leading critics to call him a creation of a great system.
His teammates are steadfast in their belief in Purdy.
“We’re all sitting here because of him, obviously," receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. "Steady. A dawg. Just a football player. I love playing football with him. He’s the reason why I’m sitting here today with an opportunity this weekend to play my best football, because of a quarterback like him.”
The reality is in between those two but both sides had evidence to back their case from the divisional round game.
Purdy was frequently off-target early in the game as he struggled with the wet conditions and said he was looking too much for big plays instead of taking the easy stuff. He was just 17 for 32 passing on the first eight drives of the game and had two passes nearly intercepted.
That all changed on the final possession for the 49ers as Purdy mounted his first fourth-quarter comeback of the season with a signature drive.
He completed six of seven passes for 47 yards, converted a third-and-short sneak and had a 9-yard scramble in the red zone that set up Christian McCaffrey's 6-yard game-winning touchdown.
“I think it wasn’t just Brock. I think it was our whole offense," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "We would like to have done better, but the way Brock finished on that last drive, not just him but everybody. It was a little here and there. We were able to overcome some of our mistakes in the last drive than we did earlier in the game. ... Brock did some really good things and that would’ve been impossible to win the game without him.”
NOTES: WR Deebo Samuel (shoulder) didn't practice Wednesday and his status for the game remains in question. Shanahan said Samuel was still in pain but is feeling better each day. Shanahan said that makes him feel better that Samuel will be able to play. ... The Niners opened the practice window for DL Kalia Davis, who was placed on IR with an ankle injury after getting hurt Dec. 17.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report
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